In a partnership with Silk Road Tea—a tea shop in Victoria, British Columbia—Indus Travels has announced a new itinerary for March 2013, the 14-day Silk Road’s India Tea & Spice Journey, that combines person-to-person interactions, a tour of India’s most must-see cities, and—of course—a healthy serving of tea.
Recommend recently got in touch with Daniela Cubelic, owner and tea master at Silk Road Tea, and Helen Charles, operations manager at Indus Travels, to discover more about the tea company, what went into making the tour possible, and what guests can expect from it.
TH: Daniela, how did you become interested, and what does it take to become a tea master…other than what I would assume to be a whole lot of tea sipping?
DC: In the words of Samuel Johnson, I am a “hardened and shameless tea drinker.” I’ve had a life-long passion for tea, and consider myself very lucky to have made a profession of my favorite subject. I was privileged at a relatively early age to have had the opportunity to study with highly acclaimed tea masters from China and Taiwan, and in 1995 after 10 years of training, I received my designation as a tea master—similar to having a Ph.D in tea. From the terroir of tea, to the many thousands of tea cultivars that exist, to an infinite number of processing techniques, to blending and cupping teas, and deciding on the perfect teaware to accompany a particular type of tea, tea is a much more complicated field of study than many realize!
TH: Can you give me a background on Silk Road Tea? How did the company come about?
DC: I wanted to share my love of tea, and in 1992 during my tea studies the opportunity came up to open a store in Victoria’s historic Chinatown. I was originally planning a career in the Foreign Service, and had intended on eventually becoming an ambassador. I decided to put that on hold while opening the store, and haven’t looked back since. Twenty years in, I realized that I had become an ambassador after all, just one for tea.
Over the years, I’ve introduced many people to tea in a multiplicity of ways. At Silk Road, we celebrate all aspects of tea, from an in-store tea inspired-spa, to skin and body care products made with tea, to tea workshops on how to make tea popsicles and tea cocktails, we represent the many aspects of tea.
TH: Why did you decide to partner with Indus Travels to offer this 14-day journey?
DC: For many years, I’ve had requests by the public to join me on my tea travels. I think people are increasingly fascinated by exploring where tea is grown, and how it is made, and to meet the personalities behind tea, so we’ll do that on this trip. Indus is an award-winning travel company, with a great deal of expertise on travel to India—and I of course want to ensure that guests will have an exceptional time on all aspects of this trip, so Indus is the perfect partner in this regard.
TH: I can’t say I’ve seen a whole lot of tea-dedicated itineraries like this…what do you think travelers will learn from this journey that they wouldn’t be able to experience elsewhere? What will they “take away” with them after the trip?
DC: An opportunity to be led by a tea expert will provide travelers with an unparalleled opportunity to gain access to tea gardens and tea growers that would otherwise not be possible. They will also have the chance to gain a much deeper understanding of tea and how it is made, as well as about tea culture, because I will be guiding them throughout the journey. There is a saying that every tea tells a story, and this journey will deliver that in an incredible way. Travelers are guaranteed to return from this trip with a whole new appreciation for tea.
TH: What kind of role does tea play in India—as in, how commonly do people drink it, does it have a strong history, or are there any ceremonies, cultural or historical significances tied to tea?
DC: India is one of the world’s leading producers, and this trip focuses on Darjeeling, a region renowned within India as its premier tea growing region. It was actually the British who began tea growing in India in the 1800’s, but tea took off in popularity within the Indian population. It’s fair to say that any time is tea time in India—tea is drunk from morning to late at night.
India is also famous for Chai tea, a combination of spices mixed with black tea and milk that evolved from traditional herbal drinks. On the trip, we’ll visit a spice market and get hands-on knowledge of how to make authentic Chai tea as well.
TH: What cultural interactions will guests take part in on this India Tea & Spice journey?
Helen Charles: There will be many cultural interactions and opportunities on the India Tea and Spice journey—one of the highlights will be the visit to the Mineral Spring Farmer’s Collective. Here, the group will have a real farmer’s tea experience, learn about the local tea culture and also the organic crops that are grown here. The group will visit a village school and interact with school children and teachers. They’ll have a guided village walk for approximately two hours through the small farms, where they’ll meet local Homestays farmer owners and end the walk at Tathagata Farm. They’ll taste handmade organic tea at Tathagata Farm and have lunch at Rungdung River.
Another experience on this journey is a visit to the Tibetan Self-Help Center, run by Tibetan refugees to preserve their handicrafts. The group will see the making of Tibetan carpets, leather work, paintings and wood work.
In Delhi, the Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk aims to make the story of the children of the street heard and to give us a view of their world through their eyes. Participants of City Walk get to go on a journey through the streets of the inner city of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi railway station, led by a child who was once living and working on the streets. This walk takes travelers on a journey through the backstreets of Delhi with a child who has been fully trained as a local guide. It’s a unique way of providing an insight into the lives of these children and an opportunity for them to improve their communication and speaking skills. I’ve done this myself and it’s an incredible experience.
These are just a few of the many experiences that the group has to look forward to. Our local tour leaders are specifically trained to offer guests plenty of opportunity for cultural interactions throughout the trip. In addition, we also suggest guests bring photographs from home, as this is a great way to spark up a conversation with a local.
Travelers taking part in Silk Road’s India Tea & Spice Journey will enjoy deluxe and luxury hotel stays while they travel through Delhi, Darjeeling, Agra, Jaipur, Deogarh and Udaipur. The journey runs from March 17-31, 2013, with rates starting at $4,480 pp dbl, inclusive of all breakfasts, 13 lunches and dinners, transportation as per itinerary, walking tours, some entrance fees, local guides and tour director, plus special experiences including a rickshaw ride in Delhi and an elephant ride in Jaipur. For more information, contact Indus Travels at (866) 978-2997 or visit industravels.ca.